Your Designer Can Probably Do This


Well-known member
by Noel Ward Editor@Large

Silly me, always being optimistic. I really thought that by now, 26 years after the first full-color digital presses were rolled out, that graphic designers might be a bit more savvy about the capabilities of modern digital presses. Nope.

As it turns out, many are not necessarily well informed about all that the latest presses can do, and in some cases may lack the skills to take advantage of some of the new capabilities. This is not a slam on graphic designers, who tend to be pretty busy making sure customer files will print as intended, given that many of their customers have limited ideas about what can be done when it comes to putting ink or toner on a page.

Education required
“Many designers are not being taught the modern effects of print—the endless possibilities available with CMYK plus gold, silver, clear, white and fluorescent. It’s just not a priority in universities and colleges, so they are behind in their education of what CMYK+ printing can do. When designers come into the workplace, they are not up to speed on what printers are capable of,” agrees Ben Glazier, Managing Director at Glazier Design, a creative agency in London, England. “More education about the specialty effects you can get from six-, seven- and eight- color digital printing is the key, and it will help them perform in their role. ”

Some resistance can be understandable, especially from business owners, when a machine under lease lacks the latest capabilities. After all, CMYK is a known quantity and when a little extra effort adds some spot colors the final printed piece can come out looking good. But is it the best it can be? Hold that thought.

“One of our mottos is that ‘if you want to get more, you must give more’,” says Mr. Glazier. “Digital presses allow us to give more because they make effects that were previously expensive and slow, fast and cost-effective. Right from the start our designers go in and learn what the press is capable of so that we can pass on the beauty of design and specialty effects a part of the new norm. It often saves the client time and cost as we can provide real-life proofs of the job before it runs. The files are simple too, with templates available for Adobe InDesign and Illustrator, with step-by-step guides, creatives have all the tools available to them to make digital print amazing. ”

The difference, though, is that some print providers look for, and actively seek out, the latest capabilities. One place that does this is IPW1, Until recently, Glazier was based in the same building as IPW1. Glen Robins, Director of Sales at IPW1, keeps on top of customer needs and evolving press technology. “We’ve worked with Glazier Design for many years and I knew about a particular machine coming our way would be a good fit for an upcoming project that would require close collaboration between us, the client and the designer.”

More color
Several equipment and software vendors are providing the ability to add metallic colors and eyeball searing fluorescent hues to documents because such features add value to brochures, direct mail, posters and more. The easier it is to add these options to your repertoire the better you can differentiate your business and add value for customers. So how easy is it? Many basic functions are getting closer to point and shoot.

At Print 19 I spent some time in the Xerox stand, pulled in by a light breakfast and scheduled one-on-one time with some product people. The Iridesse and iGen5 presses were front and center. The notions of beyond CMYK and other extended gamut capabilities have been in the news for some time. I already knew about the 6-color Xerox Iridesse, but the iGen grabbed me, given its history as an industry game-changer. I’d seen the NDA presentation back in the summer but I was still wondering what was going on. The story Xerox was sticking to was expanding its color gamut with a brilliant fluorescent yellow on the machine’s fifth color station. I immediately thought about what it would take to make this happen and how average designers might have to up their game to add this color to their projects.

What I found out is that adding these colors, especially on the iGen5, is not much different than specifying any other color. This makes it easy for designers and perhaps more importantly, end-customers, who can now access a palette of eye-catching colors and incorporate them into new documents. The trick of course, is gaining the buy-in of those end-customers.

In a follow up call after Print 19 Amy Stear, Worldwide Product Marketing Manager for Iridesse and iGen, filled me in on more of the details. I learned that even though taking advantage of the new colors is pretty easy for designers, Xerox is still making an extra effort to make sure Xerox Iridesse and iGen owners and their customers know what can be done so they can take advantage of the newfound capabilities of the presses. For many, these capabilities are unexpected—especially that they can often be accomplished in a single pass on a digital press.

“I would say that 75 percent of designers are totally unaware that the Iridesse even exists,” says Mr. Robins. “So when I ask them, ‘Have you heard about the Iridesse?’ they say, ‘Tell me about it.’ The word needs to spread to help bring the design and the print sides together.”

I didn’t think you could do this with offset
This lack of awareness extends to designers in the U.S. Current design school students and their professors at Print 19 were unaware of the expanded colors and effects available on the Iridesse and at first thought the images they were shown had been produced on offset presses. A typical comment was, “I didn’t think you could do this with offset.” Interestingly, this speaks less to the overall image quality and much more to the ability of a digital press to lay down colors that simply were not considered to be available on digital devices. And no, you can’t do this work with inkjet.

Okay, on one hand these capabilities—such as fluorescent yellow available on the iGen5—are new, so some level of unawareness is understandable, but this also points to designers not being provided with the latest available information. This, I’ve learned, is not new. A decade or more back I was giving presentations to design school graduates who had no idea what digital presses could do, and were blithely unaware of how color spaces, fonts and more had to be handled differently for digital printing. This range of information is (still) not being taught except in a handful of design departments.

Recognizing this shortcoming, Xerox is working to help designers gain a better understanding of what can be done. A big part of this takes place at the pointy end of the stick: namely the print provider. After all, print providers are the go-to people who can help inform end-customers about what can be done, so they can ask their ad agencies and designers to raise the bar on color and go beyond CMYK.

Getting up to color
To this end, Xerox has instituted two kits to show customers how they can take advantage of the added color and printing capability of the two presses. One is called “Event in a Box” to help iGen5 or Iridesse owners host events that can show their customers what can be done. The kit, which comes on a thumb drive, includes a presentation (which is not about the press) and is designed to help the print provider show customers what can done with an iGen5 or Iridesse press. It includes a poster and direct mail invitations to help promote the event and guidance for conducting an informative program that shows customers what can be done with the technology at hand.

Also available are the Print Provider Promotional kits, one each for iGen5 and Iridesse, that are more of a step-by-step walk-through for designers. The kit for Iridesse owners, for instance, includes a poster series using clear, silver, white and gold and includes production notes detailing how the effects were achieved.

Ms. Stear told me Xerox is trying to make its products as flexible and modular as possible so its customers can obtain the machine that will fit their needs, and provide a platform for further growth. For example, although a customer may not envision needing white toner when first purchasing an Iridesse, an eager customer may show up with a design requiring white on a dark-colored substrate. When this happens, Stear said it takes less than half an hour to swap one of the machine’s additional colors for white.

In some cases substrate choice plays as big a part of the final result as the toner. Xerox has partnered with specialty substrate provider GPA, which offers tested and approved substrates to help ensure jobs that go beyond the bounds of CMYK turn out as envisioned. Do not discount the value of unique substrates intended for the heat and light of a digital toner press. Substrates can make all the difference between average and “Wow!”

Beyond CMYK
According to Ms. Stear, Xerox is taking its color message further for customers and designers alike. Designers seeking to become comfortable with the nuances of adding colors can gain more knowledge at The site features the voices and perspectives of designers around the world and four brief videos meant to provoke thoughts such as, “Is Clear a Color?” “Do Creative Care about Technology?” “Is ‘Better Together’ the Future for Creative and Print Providers?” and “Do Designers Care About Technology?” For still more detail, a Xerox-published book that’s rife with printed samples and details will be available around the time you read this. An example of the book’s contents is on the site as are some already printed samples with links to How To videos, Design and File Prep Guides, substrate recommendations, and more.

Still, getting a design printed is the most critical step, so if a designer’s local print provider does not have the press needed for a particular application a business locator page at can help end-customers find a print provider with the equipment needed for a specific job.

Over the past few years I’ve watched (usually skeptically) as vendors add additional color capabilities to their digital presses. Wondering how well it works in the real world, I’ve asked designers how they use their newfound capabilities. I’m told some of the added features have not really done much to enhance a printed page. Others require deep expertise in Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for designers who need to add some extra “pop” to otherwise ordinary brochures, flyers, posters and more, an easier approach is called for. As near as I can tell so far, the approach Xerox has taken seems to address the challenge on all levels.

Mr. Robins from IPW1 agrees. “I’m very pleased with where we are today and that I can give my clients what they’re looking for as an end product. It’s a pleasure to supply them with finished materials they’re going to be happy with.”


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